Right-hander Chris Bassitt and the Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement on a three-year, $63 million contract pending a physical, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN, fortifying a deep rotation with one of the most consistent starters in the game over the last half-decade.
Bassitt, who will turn 34 in February, was among the most sought-after starters on the market and will receive the third highest per-year salary among free agent pitchers, behind Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander. Bassitt has kept similar company in recent years, as his 3.29 ERA since 2018 ranks 11th in MLB among pitchers with at least 100 starts.
The deal adds Bassitt to a rotation that already includes All-Stars Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman as well as Jose Berrios, who signed a nine-figure deal last year but struggled. The Blue Jays, who finished in second place in the wildly competitive American League East division, got swept in the wild-card series by the Seattle Mariners.
Adding a pitcher of Bassitt's caliber certainly helps Toronto keep pace. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Bassitt has made a career out of confusing hitters with a wide array of pitches: a fastball that sits at 93 mph but is located with pinpoint precision, along with a cutter, slider, curveball and changeup. Bassitt was a late bloomer -- a 16th-round pick out of the University of Akron who in the Jeff Samardzija trade went from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics, where he became a rotation stalwart and well-regarded clubhouse presence.
When Oakland blew up its roster this spring, Bassitt went to the New York Mets, where he threw a career-high 181⅔ innings and posted a 3.42 ERA. With injuries limiting deGrom and Max Scherzer, Bassitt made the most starts and threw the highest volume of innings for the Mets, providing a vital backstop as injuries threatened to derail their season.
Over eight major league seasons, Bassitt has a 46-34 record with a 3.45 ERA, along with 671 strikeouts and just 228 walks in 737⅓ innings pitched. He received Cy Young Award votes in the 2020 and 2021 seasons but set himself up best for free agency with the workhorse performance for the Mets in 2022.
New York overhauled its rotation this winter, bringing in Verlander, Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana to fill the slots vacated by Bassitt, deGrom (who signed for five years and $185 million with the Texas Rangers) and Taijuan Walker (who went to the Philadelphia Phillies for four years and $72 million). Toronto, meanwhile, continues to focus on starting pitching, a tack that has had mixed results in recent years.
The Blue Jays gave Hyun-Jin Ryu a four-year, $80 million deal before the 2020 season. He was excellent in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, inconsistent in 2021 and underwent Tommy John surgery six months ago. Last winter, Toronto signed Gausman for five years and $110 million, and he was a vital part of the rotation with Manoah, the young star. Berrios' deal, for seven years and $131 million, kept him from reaching free agency this winter.
Toronto, which earlier this winter traded outfielder Teoscar Hernández to Seattle and last week agreed to a free agent deal with center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, returns a potent offense that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer and Matt Chapman. The Blue Jays, sources said, continue to discuss trading from their plethora of catchers -- All-Star Alejandro Kirk, veteran Danny Jansen and rookie Gabriel Moreno -- with teams still showing significant interest.